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2018 NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Players to Watch

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NHL Central Scouting released their first preliminary ‘Players to Watch’ list for the 2018 NHL Draft.

It’s always an interesting see to see how the opinions of the pros stack up with the general consensus out there. As usual, I’m mostly in agreement with the list, with a few quibbles here and there based on personal preference. We’re a long ways away from next June, however, and there’s still plenty of time for this list to shake out. This is as good a starting point as any.

Here’s a couple notes on things that stood out to me on this list.

-24 players received an ‘A’ rating as a potential first round pick. The name that stood out the most to me in terms of not getting an ‘A’ rating was NTDP defenseman Bode Wilde. I talked about Wilde last month as a player I could see either making a move big move either up or down on the draft board depending on how he played this year.

I haven’t seen Wilde in person yet this year, but early chatter suggests that he’s starting to use that incredible potential and playing really well. TSN’s Craig Button ranked Wilde 25th overall in September, then had this to say after the USHL Fall Classic:

-It’s always interesting to see the various NHL Draft opinions on NAHL players coming out of the NAHL Showcase. No disagreements on any of the guys Central Scouting listed, though a couple more I’d list as possibilities:

Colby Enns, D, Minot- Enns is technically a first-year draft eligible, though with a 9/16/99 birthdate, he will be one of the oldest first-years in the draft. Good size and mobility. Logged a lot of minutes and put up some points at the Showcase. Also, he’s a kid that’s from Minot, ND so it’s not like he’s been closely watched in AAA Showcase tournaments every weekend growing up. All positive signs to look for in an under-the-radar player in the NAHL.

Juraj Ovechka, G, Springfield- Second-year eligible ‘99. I didn’t get to see a lot of him because it’s hard to get a great read on goalies at that event with so much going on, and no goalie starting all four games in four days. But he’s 6’6” with a .941 save percentage at the moment, which is enough to get anyone’s attention.

There’s a couple other fringe guys that might be worth keeping an eye on too. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Justin Engelkes, a Miami commit, is a strong skater that plays a heavy game. Bismarck’s Aiden Gallacher had a solid weekend. Neither necessarily showed the high-end offensive upside NHL teams are looking for, but are solid players for their age.

Austin’s Xander Lamppa was a player I really liked as a high schooler, but he’s struggled since making the move to junior hockey. Never the greatest skater, he’s had trouble adjusting to the pace of junior hockey. But if he can improve his skating with a little work, he’s still one of the best I’ve seen working along the boards, which could be a valuable tool at the next level.

Finally, Minnesota Magicians forward Kyler Grundy has been playing on the Magicians top line and had a three-point weekend last weekend. Grundy is a nice skater, and doesn’t back away from contact. The biggest question mark is his ability to create offense, and if he keeps producing points, he could work his way into the draft conversation.

-I haven’t seen very much of the Minnesota Elite League to this point in this season, but one of the early storylines has been the play of Demetrios Koumontzis.

Koumontzis is a interesting story. He played bantam hockey in Edina, before moving to Phoenix for two years to play for the Arizona Jr. Coyotes AAA program, and now is back to play for Edina High School this season. He was a top prospect in his USHL Draft year, but fell off the radar last year when he was hampered by an injury that required surgery. This year, healthy and back in Minnesota, he’s been excellent in the Elite League, scoring 25 points in 12 games, trailing only Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Sam Walker in the league scoring race.

He didn’t make the Central Scouting list this time, but is definitely starting to play himself into position to be a potential draft pick. He’s currently committed to Arizona State.

Otherwise, word is the Elite League is fairly quiet in terms of the 2018 Draft once again. Eden Prairie’s Jack Jensen is a definite draft pick, and Elk River’s Jack Perbix is a possible draft pick, but most of the interest in the league involves players eligible for future drafts.